by Allie Naskret
Gary Sallquist’s journey of faith has been filled with more than a few surprises. After spending thirty years in the financial services world, working in insurance, investments, financial planning, and charitable giving, Sallquist (M.Div., 1993) felt called to seminary at the age of 52. He had become a Christian late in life. Yet even after professing his faith in Christ, he never imagined he would be called to leave the business world and travel halfway across the country to attend seminary.
Growing up in Omaha, Nebraska, and focused on business for most of his life, Sallquist says that he had never known anyone from a different country or culture. Yet at Princeton Seminary, he found his horizons being stretched, as he developed meaningful friendships with people from many different cultural backgrounds. Sallquist now works for an international organization that aims to help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS in countries in Africa and around the world.
Sallquist describes his call to seminary as “a lightening strike experience.” While attending a business conference at Hanover College, he was awakened one night at 2:30 a.m. to hear God instructing him to wrap up his business venture, apply to seminary, and eventually work in Christian education. After many conversations with his pastor and close friends, a period of discernment, and several visits to PTS, he and his wife found themselves selling their home and car and traveling to New Jersey to begin a new chapter in their lives. Sallquist sold the business that he had worked to build up for many years and entered into unknown territory: going “back to school” after thirty years away from college.
Sallquist says that his experience at PTS as a second-career student was rewarding but challenging – his first year, he often slept only four hours a night to keep up with his academics. Yet Sallquist flourished in this challenging environment, and he says that his time at Princeton “stretched [his] mind and made [him] more capable of integrating new perspectives.”
In addition to his coursework, Sallquist fondly remembers his field education internship with the Rev. Dr. Steve Ramp (M.Div., 1990; Ph.D., 1997) at Hope Presbyterian Church in Lakewood, New Jersey, and his work as a special assistant to President Thomas Gillespie. Working with President Gillespie gave him a “behind-the-scenes look at a Christian education institution and how it works.” Sallquist served as a liaison to the various departments, and as a result, he had the opportunity to have many meaningful interactions with PTS professors. Sallquist and Gillespie became close friends; Sallquist shared his business knowledge with Gillespie, while Gillespie mentored Sallquist in theology and Christian education.
Greatly influenced by his time at Princeton Seminary, Sallquist wrote six books documenting his experience, four of which are now available in the Seminary bookstore. According to Sallquist, this was “one of God’s many surprises” along the way – he never imagined he would become a published author.
After three years at PTS, Sallquist re-entered the working world with a new perspective. He worked for several national ministries – including Promise Keepers and PhilanthroCorp, a Christian consulting organization – before landing with the international organization where he is currently working. He also served for a period of time as the headmaster of Miami Valley Christian Academy in Cincinnati.
In his current position, Sallquist serves as a corporate chaplain of sorts to an innovative organization called JoeyMedical. The small team of staff on JoeyMedical has developed a life-saving device called the Joey, which helps to prevent the spread of blood-borne pathogens such as HIV/AIDS and hepatitis during the birthing process. The Joey protects babies from infection and helps prevent healthcare workers from contracting blood-borne pathogens from patients.
The company hopes to make the device available to healthcare workers around the world, and especially in Africa, where a large percentage of healthcare workers are HIV positive due to exposure at work. Sallquist says there has been “worldwide interest” in the project. JoeyMedical has been in conversation with hospitals around the world that are interested in purchasing the product when it is ready. The company also recently initiated a partnership with World Vision in order to make Joeys available in four different African countries.
Sallquist’s role as chaplain of this Christian company is to keep the team spiritually grounded and in tune with God’s will. The staff team has regular prayer sessions, and Sallquist provides pastoral care and counseling to his co-workers. With thirty years of experience in business, he is also able to make meaningful business contributions to the start-up company.
For Sallquist, the key to staying in God’s will is to be in constant prayer and to open oneself up to the direction of the Holy Spirit, even if it doesn’t always make sense. His own life has been full of twists and turns that he didn’t anticipate, yet that God faithfully orchestrated. Looking back, Sallquist says that his experience in the business world gave him the confidence, drive, and discipline necessary to succeed in his seminary studies. Moreover, his involvement in financial planning and charitable giving showed him that business, if done right, can be used to do good in the world. God was “sowing the seeds for ministry” long before Sallquist made it to Princeton Seminary.
Sallquist says that his education at PTS “created a mental framework” for understanding his ministry afterward. Though he never imagined he’d be working for an international organization like JoeyMedical, his vision and perspective of ministry was stretched by his experiences at PTS. Since he first heard about the company’s mission from its CEO Mark Bode, Sallquist felt compelled to be involved with JoeyMedical. It was not a direction that he had anticipated. “Sometimes [along the journey,] God has had to hit me in the head with a two by four to get my attention,” he admits. Yet with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Sallquist continues to seek God’s will for his life – knowing that the life of faith is sometimes full of unexpected surprises.